Ardmore’s City Charter got a face lift Thursday morning after commissioners voted to update the charter’s language to adhere to new state laws, better define the role of the city manager and do away with primary elections for city commissioners.
The new charter was passed unanimously during a special meeting of the mayor and board of commissioners, but the deal has not yet been sealed. Ardmore citizens will vote on the changes in a Sept. 12 special election.
“In summation, we’re coming in line with state statutes, cleaning up and bringing things up to the times and saving some money along the way,” Vice-Mayor Sheryl Ellis said.
The charter has been tweaked, as needed, for years but a major overhaul like this one hasn’t happened since the 1950s.
According to the new changes, commissioners will be able to receive healthcare benefits in addition to the $100 they are paid annually.
Sections detailing the city manager’s role were also
updated to clarify the term of the city manager decided by a contract that is approved by the commission. It also clarified that the city manager has the ability to hire and direct staff. However, this revision is not a change to the way the government has been operating, only putting what officials already do in writing.
“There are really no major changes to the way we operate,” City Clerk Ken Campbell said.
The new charter also does away with the need to hold a primary election for commission seats — something that many surrounding cities did away with long ago.
“It could save us up to $20,000 a year and you’re still elected by the popular vote,” City Attorney Jen O’Steen said. “We hardly ever have two elections. There aren’t any real disadvantages to not having primaries.”
O’Steen said it doesn’t matter how many candidates there are under the new charter, whoever has the most votes wins the seat.
The changes to the charter are a product of 18 months of work by O’Steen and her team. City officials not only tested the charter revisions on themselves, but sat down with a few members in the community and went through the changes line-by-line.
Other changes to the charter were considered minor.
Changes to the charter, and the charter itself will be published in The Ardmoreite for 21 days, beginning no later than 20 days from Thursday. If approved by citizens in September the bill will be forwarded to Governor Mary Fallin’s desk for final approval.